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How to Build a Better Online Newsroom

What makes a great online newsroom? For starters, news. If you have plenty of compelling, relevant, timely, engaging, exclusive, or otherwise sensational news to share with the media on a regular basis, it probably doesn’t matter what your online newsroom looks like (just take a look at Twitter’s online newsroom if you don’t believe me).

Twitter doesn’t have an online newsroom – but try to find an outlet that hasn’t covered the company in the past year. Twitter is an anomaly. It can get away with it. After all, Twitter is the media and most journalists are only a tweet away.

But what if your organization is slightly less popular than Twitter? What can you do to make your online newsroom more compelling? What information should be in your online newsroom to improve your chances of scoring an interview with your favorite journalist or blogger?

Rather than provide you with a checklist of content you should add to your online newsroom, I decided to take a look at the online newsrooms for some other top-of-mind technology companies. My plan was to find some ideas you might be able to use for your online newsroom. I hope you find a couple of good nuggets you can use to build a better online newsroom for your organization. For the purposes of this review, I looked at the online newsrooms for AppleGoogleFacebook, and Microsoft. I tried to single out three things I liked about each online newsroom (and at least one thing I thought could be improved). Of course, this is based completely on my opinion, so I encourage you to visit the newsrooms on your own to determine what would work best for your needs. You’ll also note I awarded some “bonus points” for features I felt provided a lot of value for journalists and bloggers.

Apple Press Info

Apple is a media favorite. The company gets an incredible amount of traffic to its online newsroom and is built to handle it with the following features.

What I Like

  • Apple Media Helpline – the most dominant element of Apple’s online newsroom is a phone number for its Apple Media Helpline (along with an email address for media inquiries). I can’t overstate the importance of having media contacts prominently displayed in your newsroom. Apple does a great job here – they’re basically telling journalists “call us.”
  • Latest Press Releases – the media might not be interested in your press releases anymore (a topic for another post), but many care what Apple has to say. The company’s press releases are always relevant and deserve to be the dominant element of their newsroom.
  • Search Press Info – Apple does a great job with their newsroom navigation. Providing search capabilities makes things even easier for busy journalists – especially if you have a lot of content in your newsroom, as Apple does.

Room for Improvement

  • Social Media – there is no obvious way to engage with Apple’s PR team via social media. I see this as an area that could be improved, as journalists and bloggers continue to engage with PR professionals through these channels. It would also be nice to see summaries of social media activity around Apple news and events – or the ability to share information easily across social channels.

Bonus Points

  • Product Pages – Apple deserves bonus points for featuring quick links to its product info on its site. Journalists can quickly navigate to Product Info from its Media Resources menu. They have a separate product section, with press releases, images and “quick links” to related information specific to each product.

Facebook Press Room

I have to admit, Facebook is my personal favorite as far as online press rooms go. While the company has been criticized for its media relations in the past, the Facebook Press Room is the most frequent example I show to people.

What I Like

  • Consistent Look and Feel – the Facebook Press Room looks like part of Facebook. All the information is organized like any other Page you would see on Facebook. I think this works very well for them. And considering they have more than 350 million users now, there’s a good chance visitors are comfortable with the layout.
  • Organization of Information – think of anything you would want to know about the company and you’ll find a link for it on this page. The company boilerplate is front and center, followed by releases, and recent blog posts (the best of both old and new media relations).
  • Statistics – many companies hide their numbers (or more accurately, choose not to share this information – usually due to competitive reasons). Facebook provides a handy page with all sorts of useful statistics on its usage, averages, growth rates, platform, etc.
  • Content – factsheets, bios, images, a timeline, and b-roll footage (with videos on every conceivable topic) round out the newsroom content. No wonder Facebook is in the news so much (I’m sure it has nothing to do with its stratospheric growth rate).

Room for Improvement

  • Social Media Mashup – There is little room for improvement with Facebook’s newsroom. Since I promised I would come up with at least one suggestion, I might like to see a rollup of what Facebook users are saying about the company right now (pulling from Facebook status updates or third-party social media).

Bonus Points

  • Speaker Request / Interview Request – Facebook gets bonus points for including both a “Speaker Request” and “Interview Request” option in its newsroom. This is the best feature of all the press rooms I looked at (it’s very well done too).
  • Tell Us a Story – Facebook also includes a “Your Stories” option that encourages users to share their stories about using Facebook. They let their users know that they are interested in hearing from them, and would like to share their stories with the rest of the world. This is awesome.

Google Press Center

The Google Press Center is pretty boring at first glance but built to serve its function (like everything else Google creates). And if there’s one thing I know about Google, they test and retest everything. I guarantee you that every piece of content in the newsroom is exactly where it’s supposed to be.

What I Like

  • Google Blog – most of Google’s news is communicated through its blog, which is the dominant element of its Press Center. The company only seems to produce press releases for the really BIG stuff (like the recent Nexus One Phone announcement). I like the blog approach for Google because that’s the format that best fits the journalists and bloggers that write about them.
  • Reviewer’s Guides – reviews are essential for gaining adoption for Google’s products and services. Providing Reviewer’s Guides for self-service through the Press Center is an excellent feature. This makes it easy for any journalist or blogger to conduct their own review on any of Google’s products or services.
  • The Google Podium – executive talks from the Official Google YouTube Channel. I like this feature because it gives you access to Google’s leadership in video form. It doesn’t hurt that it’s powered by one of Google’s products (as are most of the Press Center’s offerings).

Room for Improvement

  • More Real-Time Stuff – This is a very functional online newsroom. Like the Facebook example, there is little I would change in the newsroom. I would like to see more interactivity on the site – perhaps a mashup of Google’s Twitter accounts, a live feed of Google events and happenings around the world, or “trending topics” related to what people are searching on Twitter right now (similar to Twitter’s features).

Bonus Points

  • Google Twitter Directory – Google has a Twitter feed for every product it has. If you’re interested in following a specific product, you can quickly find the appropriate feed in this directory. There is also a Google Blog Directory that serves a similar function. This is a great approach to building relationships with audiences around the areas they are most interested in.

Microsoft News Center

Microsoft is the oldest company in this comparison group, so you might expect they would have a pretty sophisticated online newsroom (they do).

What I Like

  • Visual Impact – Microsoft has one of the better-looking newsrooms of the mix, appearing more like a page you would see on an Internet news site (you know, like you might see on MSN.com). The Microsoft News Center features a lot of news. Rather than resorting to a bunch of press releases, the company has produced its own news content in its newsroom. This is a nice touch.
  • Press Tools – for journalists and bloggers that prefer to write their own stories, rather than read what Microsoft’s journalists have to say, the company provides a wide-range of media resources you would expect to see: press releases, facts about Microsoft, bios, images, videos, b-roll and analyst reports.
  • Microsoft on the Issues – one of the featured blogs in its News Center, Microsoft provides content around the issues of the day – from the company’s perspective. This is a good use of the company’s influence around the world – and a great resource for journalists and bloggers.

Bonus Points

  • PressPass RSS – Microsoft gets bonus points for its PressPass RSS feed in its newsroom. Subscribers can customize their feed based on the information that is relevant to them. This is an awesome feature for an online newsroom, particularly for an organization like Microsoft that has so many different media audiences to serve around the world.
  • Worldwide Contact Info – Microsoft also provides contact information for every market around the world on its newsroom. Any journalist can quickly find the appropriate media contact (including agency representatives) through its newsroom. While you might expect this from a company of this size, it’s amazing how many companies don’t do this.

Room for Improvement

  • Featured Stories – The company has a “Featured Stories” section that appears below the fold in its newsroom. I personally found these stories to be among the most interesting content on the site. As of this writing, there is a story about a college tour, some cool features of Bing Maps, and Microsoft’s efforts to combat child pornography. I would like to see these stories featured more prominently in a feed on the site. In fairness, there is a ton of content on the site, so something is always going to go below the fold.

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